Learning how to comp?

Posted by: JoeThePianoMan

Learning how to comp? - 04/20/13 04:08 PM

Hey guys! I've been the main piano player at my high school for the past two years, and with that I've played from the Keyboard 1/Conductor score for my school's musicals. I've just gotten the book for the next one in a few months - Hairspray. It seems pretty cool and not too hard at all. However, a lot of it is improv which is something I'm not too comfortable with. I'm a classically trained pianist, so I can read notes and chords super easily but give me a lead sheet and I'm at a loss for what to do. Can anyone suggest good resources for me to help me advance my improv skills? I consider myself an advanced level player and an amazing sight-reader so difficulty isn't a real issue.

Thanks!
Posted by: daviel

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/20/13 04:48 PM

welcome to the forum. Comping? Try to listen to the soloist. Play rhythmically to drive the band. Stay out of the way. Play like Marian McPhartland in this video:

Marian McPhartland with Benny Carter

Improvisation skills can be jump started by following the Dave Frank lessons on this site.
Posted by: rintincop

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/20/13 11:31 PM

The purpose of comping is to enhance the rhythmic feeling. You don't need to play every chord or a lot of notes.
Posted by: rintincop

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/20/13 11:35 PM

The purpose of comping is to enhance the rhythmic feeling. You don't need to play every chord or a lot of notes.
Posted by: chrisbell

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/21/13 07:47 AM

Every genre has its comping "rules", licks, phrases styles, etc.
One learns by listening (and transcribing/playing along with) the music that you will be going to work on.

At least, this is how I learnt (and still do).
Director: "heard you can play piano, can you play 50's rock on roll?"
Me: "Sure. When's the first rehearsal?"
Me: hanging up the phone, making haste to the closest record shop, "I need some Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis albums!"

Listen to the music, listen to the piano/keyboards, imitate-integrate.
Posted by: daviel

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/21/13 02:29 PM

Good point. 50's rock & roll is a natural once you listen to a few records!
Posted by: JoeThePianoMan

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/21/13 04:16 PM

Thanks guys! I appreciate the responses and I'll definitely look into just listening to songs from that time. I just wasn't sure if there were any good books/lessons I should take a look at (like that dave frank's lessons).
Posted by: Sand Tiger

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/21/13 04:30 PM

This may or may not help. It is a YouTube from Bill Hilton. He calls it an Advanced Comping Exercise for Ballads.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aACRefvVPHQ

It says advanced, but some of the techniques covered are easy enough for many levels. It says Ballads (think Elton John songs), but again, the techniques can be adopted and modified.

Hilton talks about rocking split chords, and then moves on to coloring chords with suspended 2nds and 4ths. He uses offset rhythms and simple one note and two note left hand harmonies while playing the rocking or colored chords on the right hand.

I have no connection with Hilton. I found the tutorial to be interesting and perhaps relevant.
Posted by: JoeThePianoMan

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/21/13 08:51 PM

Thanks! I'll definitely check it out.
Posted by: RonL

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/22/13 10:41 AM

For pop styles I recommend the Mark Harrison Pop Piano book - covers comping for all the major pop styles. Great resource. For jazz there are a lot of books out there on the topic, I did not care for the Hal Crook comping book, could be me YMMV - the Jazz Piano Book by Levine has a great section on comping, the Phil De Greg Jazz Harmony book covers a lot of voicings, you can also get transcriptions of comping from the Abersol folks - Jamey's comping is basic/solid and makes good use of chromaticism. Good luck.
Posted by: rada

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/22/13 11:45 AM

I remember seeing a Fake book for the first time and I thought well this is crazy there is no left hand. Since you are a good reader you might not learn best by listening. Try getting your hands on a fake book then you'll be forced to figure out what to play.

rada
Posted by: JoeThePianoMan

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/22/13 11:25 PM

I completely forgot about fake books shocked! I'll probably go out and grab a copy of it tomorrow as that seems like exactly what I wanted. Thanks to all those you have replied!
Posted by: JazzPianoEducator

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/23/13 11:06 AM

Definitely agree with RonL on Mark Levine's Jazz Piano and also the Abersold books. Aebersold is expecially helpful because it comes with play alongs you can comp with. You can dial down the piano by fading to left or right so that you are just playing with the bass and drums.

In general, work on learning multiple inversions of chords (start with triad inversions, then add 7th, then 9th, etc). Also, a most important component of comping is the rhythmic patterns you use. To make it easier to isolate the rhythm, try just clapping your comping patterns until you are comfortable. Then move to using simple cord pattern, then gradually get more creative. Main thing is to start simple and build from there. Most of the time, less is more! Check out how Count Basie does it and you'll get the idea that a little goes a long way.

Hope this helps...

JPE
Posted by: Cudo

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/24/13 03:44 AM

Originally Posted By: JoeThePianoMan
I've just gotten the book for the next one in a few months - Hairspray. It seems pretty cool and not too hard at all. However, a lot of it is improv which is something I'm not too comfortable with.


Hairspray? Is it Jazz?
Posted by: daviel

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/24/13 02:29 PM

OP does not need to start a ground-up study of jazz improv. He needs to get ready to play in the pit band for a school musical. Broadway pop? OP needs to get a iPod or mp3 or CD copy of the musical and cop a few licks from that performance. He just needs to prepare.
Posted by: Cudo

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/24/13 05:36 PM

I hope you are right
Posted by: JazzPianoEducator

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/24/13 06:27 PM

Agree that preparation is key. Just wanted to offer up some additional advice if OP wanted to learn how to do it right in the future. OP mentioned not knowing how to improvise so these are some places to start. You are not going to learn it overnight--it takes a lifetime--but that doesn't mean you can't get started the right way

JPE
Posted by: Mark Polishook

Re: Learning how to comp? - 04/24/13 09:34 PM

OP ... go back to your band director and explain the difficulties you see and get that person to suggest how to approach the things you need to do that are not currently possible for you (such is improvising with the score). If your BD can't make suggestions for whatever reason, then get her or him to recommend someone who can. It would be nice to build a solid base with skills for improvising but that'll take a while and it sounds like in the meantime you have a show to play! Anyway, the basic advice is get the BD to help you because that person gave you the music and should have some idea of what it is you're supposed to do!
Posted by: Michael Martinez

Re: Learning how to comp? - 06/07/13 01:16 PM

Originally Posted By: JoeThePianoMan
give me a lead sheet and I'm at a loss for what to do. Can anyone suggest good resources for me to help me advance my improv skills? I consider myself an advanced level player and an amazing sight-reader so difficulty isn't a real issue.

Thanks!


Understanding Harmony volume 5: voicing chords (www.amazon.com/Understanding-Implementing-Harmony-Piano-5/dp/0988511665/)
Understanding Harmony volume 1: diatonic (http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Implementing-Harmony-Piano-Diatonic/dp/0988511622/)
The Harmonic Foundation of Jazz and Popular Music (www.amazon.com/Harmonic-Foundation-Jazz-Popular-Music/dp/0961303506/)
Posted by: Michael Martinez

Re: Learning how to comp? - 06/07/13 01:19 PM

Originally Posted By: daviel
OP does not need to start a ground-up study of jazz improv. He needs to get ready to play in the pit band for a school musical. Broadway pop?


Broadway = Jazz harmonies ....
Posted by: keyboardplaying1

Re: Learning how to comp? - 07/12/13 11:08 AM

There seems to be a fairly standard set of voicings which is used frequently in jazz, they're usually referred to as A and B voicings. Some information here:
http://www.thejazzresource.com/4_note_voicings.html

Also look up "The Jazz Piano Book" by Mark Levine.
Posted by: Michael Martinez

Re: Learning how to comp? - 07/15/13 01:00 PM

You'll need to learn LH and RH chord voicings and you'll need to learn their inversions and locations up and down the keyboard, because when you're comping you want to vary the range in which you play. As someone else previously mentioned, there are A and B voicings although that usually refers just to the left hand so you'll need to learn RH voicings too.

If you're sense of harmony is good (your ear for chord progressions), then comping really isn't really anything you have to think about or practice much. It's mostly a rhythmic thing where you provide hints at the harmony without getting in the way of the soloist.

You might check out Hal Crook's book on Comping. I don't know if it's any good because I didn't read it, but it's called "How to Comp" so the title seems to be what you need smile
Posted by: Bex

Re: Learning how to comp? - 07/15/13 01:01 PM

I agree with Jazz Piano Educator and others who have recommended the Abersold books and the Levine book. I'm also a classically trained pianist and I started learning and performing jazz last year, both solo and with a great jazz ensemble. Both books helped a lot. Note that you need some theory training to get full value out of the Levine book.

Here's my improvisation of Gershwin's "Lady Be Good": http://youtu.be/QFz0e6lO0qY. Just had a lead sheet, so I made it kind of bossa nova at first, then swing. I play it straight the first time and improvise the second time. I'm still a newbie at this, but hope to keep getting better.
Posted by: Steve Nixon

Re: Learning how to comp? - 07/17/13 12:14 AM

Originally Posted By: JoeThePianoMan
Hey guys! I've been the main piano player at my high school for the past two years, and with that I've played from the Keyboard 1/Conductor score for my school's musicals. I've just gotten the book for the next one in a few months - Hairspray. It seems pretty cool and not too hard at all. However, a lot of it is improv which is something I'm not too comfortable with. I'm a classically trained pianist, so I can read notes and chords super easily but give me a lead sheet and I'm at a loss for what to do. Can anyone suggest good resources for me to help me advance my improv skills? I consider myself an advanced level player and an amazing sight-reader so difficulty isn't a real issue.

Thanks!


Hey Joe!
For voicing triads make sure you know open voicings in all 12 keys for major and minor. Also, can you respond immediately to the chords on a lead sheet? Or is there a delay there?

So, to help out with learning two handed comp jazz chords you could check out one of my early videos I did for jazz lessons website www.freejazzlessons.com There are definitely some very common voicings in there. I also recommend you try to absorb some of the rhythms I use. (that's what I did with Wynton Kelly, Herbie Hancock, and Barry Harris smile )



You can also check out this Walter Bishop Jr. comping video. The piano he plays on is a bit out of tune but none the less don't let that deter you. Some cool stuff in there.


Hope this helps buddy and let me know!
Posted by: Oongawa

Re: Learning how to comp? - 08/03/13 02:19 PM

I'll display my ignorance....

What does "comp" mean?

Is it to improvise? or use a fake book?

I'm not familiar with the term at all, and don't really know any contemporary music, my teacher mainly focuses on classic, which is fine but I want to branch out soon. I'd like to play popular music, but not interested in Jazz.
Posted by: Farmerjones

Re: Learning how to comp? - 08/05/13 08:18 AM

Originally Posted By: Oongawa
I'll display my ignorance....

What does "comp" mean?

Is it to improvise? or use a fake book?

I'm not familiar with the term at all, and don't really know any contemporary music, my teacher mainly focuses on classic, which is fine but I want to branch out soon. I'd like to play popular music, but not interested in Jazz.


"comp" - short for "accompany." Either vocals or other instruments.
Posted by: Rollin shoulders

Re: Learning how to comp? - 08/14/13 11:42 PM

Originally Posted By: JoeThePianoMan
Hey guys! I've been the main piano player at my high school for the past two years, and with that I've played from the Keyboard 1/Conductor score for my school's musicals. I've just gotten the book for the next one in a few months - Hairspray. It seems pretty cool and not too hard at all. However, a lot of it is improv which is something I'm not too comfortable with. I'm a classically trained pianist, so I can read notes and chords super easily but give me a lead sheet and I'm at a loss for what to do. Can anyone suggest good resources for me to help me advance my improv skills? I consider myself an advanced level player and an amazing sight-reader so difficulty isn't a real issue.

Thanks!


Wow! I wish we could switch skills ha
I can play with lead sheets, but give me an arrangement for the same tune, and I get lost easily. Having skills like your would really help with my major right now!

... Keep it up buddy!